Bridgman, Charles (DNB01)

BRIDGMAN or BRIDGEMAN, CHARLES (d. 1738), gardener to George I and George II, is said to have succeeded Henry Wise [q. v.] in the management of the royal gardens about 1720. According to Croker's positive statement, he was the second son of Sir Orlando Bridgeman, fourth baronet, and younger brother of Sir Henry Bridgeman, who became the first Lord Bradford; but this is quite impossible, as Sir Henry was born in 1725, a date at which the gardener was in full practice. Bridgeman was greatly celebrated for his taste by the chief connoisseurs of the day. According to Walpole, his two chief claims to distinction in the history of his art were that he was the first who began to break in upon the rigid symmetry of the old rectangular designs, and, secondly, he was the inventor of the sunk fence, or 'haha.' This innovation, Walpole explains, was all-important in the history of gardening, for the contiguous ground outside the fence had now to be harmonised with the lawn within, while the garden was set free from its prim regularity, that it might consort with the wilder country without. Bridgeman may have popularised the haha in England, where he was one of the first to recognise its distinctive merit of marking a boundary without interfering with the vista. But the haha had been borrowed from the art of fortification many years before Bridgeman. The French gardeners frequently used the term in the seventeenth century, while John James (d. 1746) [q. v.], in his 'Theory and Practice of Gardening' from the French of Le Blond (London, 1712, p. 77), speaks of 'Thorough Views (with concealed ditches, called Ah Ah) . . . which surprise and make one call Ah, Ah!' Pope had a great admiration for Bridgeman, whom he introduced into the epistle on 'Taste' (line 74), though he afterwards omitted his name and substituted that of Cobham at Bridgeman's own request. His reason for declining the 'immortality of Pope's verse' was probably his unwillingness to be praised where the Duke of Chandos and others were so severely censured. Bridgeman was corresponding with Pope, writing from Broad Street, in September 1724, and he probably gave him some advice about his garden at Twickenham, as he certainly did in the case of the garden at Marble Hill, which Pope and Lord Bathurst laid out for Lady Sufiblk. The whole of Pope's 'Epistle to the Earl of Burlington,' published in 1731, was a eulogy of 'the freer or English style of gardening' — afterwards developed by William Kent and Launcelot ('Capability') Brown — as exhibited by Bridgeman in the gardens at Stowe in opposition to the more formal style of garden architecture as illustrated by Le Notre at Versailles, and copied to a certain extent by Loudon, who died in 1713, and by his successor, Henry Wise. Bridgeman cooperated at Stowe with Vanbrugh, and to the modern observer his emancipation from the old style will not seem very apparent. Before 1729 he had become king's gardener. In 1731 the Duchess of Queensberry invited him to Amesbury to give her the benefit of his advice on her garden there. The Serpentine was formed and the gardens between it and Kensington Palace laid out by Bridgeman between 1730 and 1733, though they were afterwards considerably modified by Kent, Eepton, and other gardeners. Queen Caroline enclosed as much as three hundred acres from Hyde Park, and these were grafted by Bridgeman upon the garden originally laid out by Wise (Lysons, Environs, iii. 184; Thornbury, London, vol. v.)

Bridgeman also appears to have designed the royal gardens at Richmond, and to have constructed the garden at Gubliins in Hertfordshire. It is plain that he had a large number of highly influential patrons and friends. Pope regarded him as a fellow virtuoso. The good position that he occupied may serve as some extenuation of Croker's mistake in identifying him with the George Bridgeman the 'surveyor of the royal parks' and member of the board of green cloth, who lost his places in April 1764, and died at Lisbon on 26 Dec. 1767. He died in July 1738, 'of a dropsy, at his house in Kensington,' and was succeeded as royal gardener by Mr. Dent. Bridgeman's death accounts for the issue, on 12 May 1739, not by him, but by Sarah Bridgeman, of 'A General Plan of the Woods, Park, and Gardens at Stowe' (London, fol.) This was perhaps his widow, or possibly his daughter, in which case she may be identical with the Sarah Bridgeman who died on 13 May 1794, aged 91 (Lysons, iv. 227). A Samuel Bridgeman, 'bottle groom to the king,' died in 1769. Thomas Bridgeman, a well-known florist of the Bowery, New York, who published in 1832 'The Young Gardener's Assistant,' was perhaps an offshoot of the same family.

The successor to London and Wise in the charge of the royal gardens, Bridgeman was, says Walpole, 'far more chaste than his predecessors.' He first began to 'diversify the strait lines by wilderness and with loose groves of oak.' At Gubbins Walpole affirmed that he was able to detect 'many detached thoughts that strongly indicate the dawn of modern taste,' and he traced a similar im- provement upon formal patterns in the garden at Houghton to the influence of Eyre, who was one of Bridgeman's disciples. Walpole believed that a perusal of the 'Guardian' (No. 173) inspired Bridgeman with the idea of reforming the whole system of English gardening and of effecting the abolition of 'verdant sculpture.' Biit there is a good deal of exaggeration and conjecture in all this, and it is safer to regard Bridgeman as a clever and adaptive successor of Wise than as anticipating the innovations of 'Capability Brown.'

[London Mag. July 1738; Political State, Ivi. 94; Musgrave's Obituaries (Harl. Soc.) i. 258; Amherst's Hist. of Gardening in England, 1895, 241; Milner's Art and Practice of Landscape Gardening, 1890; Blomfield's Formal Garden in England; Walpole's Letters, ed. Cunningham, iv. 225; Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting, 1888, iii. 98; Johnson's English Gardening, 1829, p. 262; Loudon's Cyclopaedia of Gardening, 1850, p. 248; Bickham's Delicise Brit. p. 32; Felton's Gleanings on Gardens; Suffolk Corresp. ed. Croker, 1824, i. passim; Pope's Works, ed. Elwin and Courthope, passim; Cal. Treasury Papers, ed. W. A. Shaw, 1729-1738, passim.]

T. S.